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Every woman can improve her health, whether by moving more or getting regular checkups and preventive screenings recommended by her doctor.

Two preventive screenings, in particular, can pay dividends for many women: breast cancer and cervical cancer exams. The Department of Public Health (DPH)’s Care Coordination Program helps eligible women throughout Massachusetts get breast and cervical cancer screenings.

Breast and Cervical Cancer Screenings

From 2007 to 2011, breast cancer was the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Massachusetts women, representing about one third of all cases. Additionally, cervical cancer affected 2 percent of female cancer patients in the state. Both are highly treatable if caught early — women who received a breast cancer diagnosis early had a survival rate of 98.5 percent, compared with 25 percent for those who received a late-stage diagnosis — which is why regular breast and cervical cancer screenings are so important.

The two most common screening tests are mammograms for breast cancer and Pap tests for cervical cancer. How often each woman should be tested depends on a number of factors, including age and risk, but the general guidelines are:

  • Mammograms — During a mammogram, each breast is examined for possible signs of cancer by a specially designed X-ray machine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that women between the ages of 50 and 74 receive a mammogram once every two years, but women who are at higher risk of breast cancer may need more frequent screenings. If you have a personal or immediate family history of breast cancer or another risk factor, discuss your screening plan with your doctor.
  • Pap Test —This screening, also known as a Pap smear, tests a sample collected from the cervical wall for precancers, which are changes in cells that can eventually develop into cancer if left untreated. All women ages 21 to 65 should get regular Pap tests, but how frequently you should be tested depends on your individual risk and circumstances. Ask your doctor about developing a preventive screening plan.

The Women’s Health Network Care Coordination Program can help eligible women get the screenings they need. To get more information or to be connected to a Care Coordination Program site near you, please call (877) 414-4447.

Reach out to your primary care provider for a checkup, or your insurer to find a doctor near you. Breast and cervical cancer screenings are now covered by all types of insurance with no co-pay, so getting screened is as easy as talking to your doctor and making an appointment. Take control of your health: You can improve your wellness starting today by making healthy choices and getting the preventive care you need.

Questions about breast or cervical cancer screening? Tweet us @MassGov.

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